Juno Therapeutics said today it acquired X-Body for more than $44 million-plus—the second technology-focused acquisition in the past month for the developer of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell cancer therapies.
Juno said it will incorporate X-Body’s discovery platform into its process for creating CAR T constructs, using it to generate new binding domains from fully-human naive single chain variable fragment (scFv)-formatted libraries. Fully-human scFv's have the potential, according to Juno, for reduced immunogenicity and improved CAR T cell in vivo persistence.
The platform is designed to rapidly select fully human antibodies with desired characteristics, even against difficult targets, after interrogating the human antibody repertoire. Juno said it also plans to continue to explore the broader application of the technology to alternative antigen-binding platforms, including its TCR platform.
Acquiring X-Body, Juno said, furthers its strategy of investing in technologies intended to enhance its ability to create engineered T cells against a broad array of cancer targets.
“The X-BODY acquisition brings protein engineering capabilities to Juno that meaningfully improve our ability to generate novel CAR T and TCR product candidates, which will help optimize potential therapies against both current and new targets,” Juno CEO Hans Bishop said in a statement.
Based in Waltham, MA, X-Body has nine employees and was co-founded in 2008 by Richard W. Wagner, Ph.D., who served as the company’s chairman; Gordon Binder, the company’s president and a former CEO and chairman of Amgen; and his son Brant Binder, the founder and CFO of SRU Biosystems. The company has focused on the discovery of human monoclonal antibodies against challenging membrane targets, and more recently the discovery of TCR binding domains.
Juno agreed to acquire X-Body for an initial $21 million cash plus 439,265 shares valued at more than $23 million, based on yesterday’s closing price per share of $52.64. Juno added that it also agreed to make an undisclosed amount in payments tied to achieving research, clinical, and regulatory milestones for products generated using the X-Body technology, as well as an undisclosed amount in additional cash payments following commercialization.
As part of the deal, Juno said, Yan Chen, M.D., Ph.D., X-Body’s svp of research, as BODY, will become Juno’s head of biotherapeutic discovery.
The acquisition of X-Body comes three weeks after Juno acquired Stage Cell Therapeutics for up to $233 million in upfront and potential milestone payments. That deal was designed to further the buyer’s goal of becoming a leader in process development and manufacturing of cell therapies, Juno said at the time.
Juno was launched in 2013 by The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The company raised about $265 million through an initial public offering in December 2014. Before the IPO, Juno had privately raised more than $300 million from investors that include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.